Page images

made as handsome a defence, as was possible. He had likewise invested a second, and would certainly have been master of that too in a very little time, had he not been diverted from this enterprise by the arrival of a courier, who brought advice that his presence was absolutely necessary in the disposal of a beaver; upon which he raised the siege, and indeed retreated with precipitation."

“ The real person here alluded to,” remarks the annotator on this passage, was Mr.James Heywood. He outlived this silly habit, however, and gave the annotator this, and a variety of similar information, gratis, for he was not a button worse or better for it." *

32. Isaac WATTS was born at Southampton, on the 17th of July, 1674. He was the eldest of nine children, and exhibited, even in his infancy, so much attachment to books, that, when but four years of age he began to acquire the Latin language, of which, along with Greek and Hebrew, he shortly afterwards obtained a competent knowledge, under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Pinhorn, master of the Free-school at Southampton. Having chosen to dissent from the established

• Guardian, vol. i. p. 11, 12, 13, and the pote.

church, he was, in 1690, placed under the care of the Rev, Thomas Rowe, who taught an academy in London; and in 1693 he united in communion with the congregation of his tutor, a man of great worth, and the pastor of a body of Independents.

On the completion of his academical studies he returned, at the age of twenty, to his father's house, where for two years he exclusively devoted himself to a preparation for the awful duties to which he was destined. At the close of this period, being invited by Sir John Hartopp to reside with him as domestic tutor to his son, he embraced the proposal, and during the five years which he spent under this gentleman's roof, he perfected himself in a critical knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.

It was in the last year of his residence with Sir John that he undertook the sacred functions of his profession, by preaching on his birth-day, 1698, and very shortly afterwards he was fixed uponi as 'an assistant to the Rev. Dr. Chauncey, on whose death, in 1701-2 he was appointed to fill the pastoral office as his successor.

Scarcely, however, had he assumed the charge of his flock, before a dangerous illness so completely interrupted his duties, that the congre, gation deemed it necessary to provide him with

a regular assistant in the person of Mr. Samuel Price, whose services commenced in July, 1703. To such a state of debility, indeed, was Mr. Watts reduced by this attack, that some years elapsed ere he was able to renew his former exertions; on the re-establishment of his health, however, he again punctually, and with uncommon assiduity, performed all the duties of his station, until, in September, 1712, he was once more afflicted with disease; with a fever so violent, that his constitution suffered from it an irretrievable shock; and, though he survived the period commonly assigned to human life, he felt the injuries which it had occasioned even to the hour of his death.

The calamity, however, was productive of an event which made ample compensation for all that he had undergone; his extreme languor and depression, combined with a well-founded admiration of his moral character and talents, called forth into active exertion the benevolence and friendship of Sir Thomas Abney, who, in a manner which could not be resisted, invited him to his house, was indefatigable in his endeavours for the restoration of his health, and had the satisfaction of seeing him restored to his wonted cheerfulness and utility. Under the hospitable roof of this gentleman and his lady, Dr. Watts

spent the remainder of his life; for six and thirty years he was treated by the members of this family with unremitting deference and esteem; for, though Sir Thomas lived but eight years to enjoy the society of our worthy divine, equal protection and domestic comforts were extended to him by his widow and her daughters.

In October 1716, four years after the commencement of his illness, he returned to the duties of his ministry, which, during his confinement, had been performed by Mr. Price, as joint pastor. In 1728 the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen conferred upon him, without his knowledge, and in the most respectful manner, the degree of doctor in divinity, an honour which his piety, his learning, and philosophy had long merited.

Until the infirmities of old age overtook him, Dr. Watts continued, not only to discharge his official functions with exemplary regularity, but to benefit the public by the productions of his pen; at length, increasing weakness compelled him to relinquish both employments; his resignation as a minister, however, was not accepted; nor would his congregation, though remunerating another pastor, omit the salary that he had been accustomed to receive.

Dr. Watts died under the roof of Lady Abney, VOL. III.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

without pain or struggle, on the 25th of Novem, ber, 1748, aged seventy-four.

In his literary character, Dr. Watts may be considered as a poet, a philosopher, and a theologian. In the first of these departments, if he did not attain a very high rank, he was, at least, considerably above mediocrity; and his devotional poetry, in particular, possesses a sweetness and simplicity, both in thought and diction, which deservedly acquired for it, especially among the Dissenters, with whom his psalms and hymns are in daily use, an established reputation. t

His philosophical productions can claim the rare merit of being always practically useful, and have been of the most essential service in the education of youth. His logic has received the highest encomium by its admission into the universities; his Philosophical Essays; his Treatise on Education, &c. &c. are conducive to the best purposes of morality and instruction, and on his work entitled The Improvement of the Mind, no greater or happier eulogium can be given than what the following paragraph from. Dr.Johnson affords: 51.

in “. Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than his. Improvement of the Mind, of which the radical principle may in

« PreviousContinue »